By Errico Malatesta (1929)

Entry 9733


From: holdoffhunger [id: 1]


Revolt Library Anarchism Anarchist-Communism

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(1853 - 1932)

Italian, Anarchist Intellectual, Anti-Capitalist, and Anti-Fascist

: There have almost certainly been better anarchist writers, more skilled anarchist organizers, anarchists who have sacrificed more for their beliefs. Perhaps though, Malatesta is celebrated because he combined all of these so well, exemplifying thought expressed in deed... (From: Cunningham Bio.)
• "Government is the consequence of the spirit of domination and violence with which some men have imposed themselves on other, and is at the same time the creature as well as the creator of privilege and its natural defender." (From: "Anarchist Propaganda," by Errico Malatesta.)
• "...the oppressed are always in a state of legitimate self-defense, and have always the right to attack the oppressors." (From: "Anarchists Have Forgotten Their Principles," by E....)
• "Our task then is to make, and to help others make, the revolution by taking advantage of every opportunity and all available forces: advancing the revolution as much as possible in its constructive as well as destructive role, and always remaining opposed to the formation of any government, either ignoring it or combating it to the limits of our capacities." (From: "The Anarchist Revolution," by Errico Malatesta.)

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In 1876 we were, as we are still, anarchist communists; but this does not mean that we use communism as a panacea or dogma, and fail to see that to achieve communism certain moral and material conditions are needed which we must create.[62]

Luigi Galleani’s “La Fine dell’Anarchismo” … is in essence a clear, serene, eloquent account of anarchist communism according to the Kropotkinian conception; a conception which I personally find too optimistic, too easy-going, too trusting in natural harmonies, but for all that, his is the most important contribution to anarchist propaganda that has been made so far.[63]

We too aspire to communism as the most perfect achievement of human solidarity, but it must be anarchist communism, that is, freely desired and accepted, and the means by which the freedom of everyone is guaranteed and can expand; for these reasons we maintain that State communism, which is authoritarian and imposed, is the most hateful tyranny that has ever afflicted, tormented and handicapped mankind.[64]

Those anarchists who call themselves communists (and I am one of them) do so not because they wish to impose their particular way of seeing things on others or because they believe that outside communism there can be no salvation, but because they are convinced, until proved wrong, that the more human beings are joined in brotherhood, and the more closely they cooperate in their efforts for the benefit of all concerned, the greater is the well-being and freedom which each can enjoy. They believe that Man, even if freed from oppression by his fellow men, still remains exposed to the hostile forces of Nature, which he cannot overcome alone, but which, in association with others, can be harnessed and transformed into the means for his own well-being. The man who would wish to provide for his material needs by working alone is a slave to his work … as well as not being always sure of producing enough to keep alive. It would be fantastic to think that some anarchists, who call themselves, and indeed are, communists, should desire to live as in a convent, subjected to common rules, uniform meals and clothes, etc.; but it would be equally absurd to think that they should want to do just as they like without taking into account the needs of others or of the right all have to equal freedom. Everybody knows that Kropotkin, for instance, who was one of the most active and eloquent anarchist propagandists of the communist idea was at the same time a staunch defender of the independence of the individual, and passionately desired that everybody should be able to develop and satisfy freely their artistic talents, engage in scientific research, and succeed in establishing a harmonious unity between manual and intellectual activity in order to become human beings in the noblest sense of the word. Furthermore communist-anarchists believe that because of the natural differences in fertility, salubrity, and location of the land masses, it would be impossible to ensure equal working conditions for everyone individually and so achieve, if not solidarity, at least, justice. But at the same time they are aware of the immense difficulties in the way of putting into practice that world wide, free-communism, which they look upon as the ultimate objective of a humanity emancipated and united, without a long period of free development. And for this reason they arrive at conclusions which could be perhaps expressed in the following formula: The achievement of the greatest measures of individualism is in direct ratio to the amount of communism that is possible; that is to say, a maximum of solidarity in order to enjoy a maximum of freedom.[65]

In theory communism is the ideal system which, so far as human relationships are concerned, would replace struggle by solidarity and would utilize natural energies and human labor to the best possible advantage and transform humanity into one big brotherhood intent on mutual aid and love.

But is this practical in the existing spiritual and material state of human affairs? And if so, within what limits?

Worldwide communism, that is a single community among all mankind, is an aspiration, an ideal goal at which one must aim, but which certainly could not be a possible form of economic organization at present. We are, of course, speaking for our times and probably for some time to come; so far as the distant future is concerned we leave it to future generations to think about that.

For the present one can only think of multiple communities among people who are kindred spirits, and who would, besides, have dealings with each other of various kinds, communistic or commercial; and even within these limits there is always the problem of a possible antagonism between communism and freedom. Assuming the feeling exists that draws men towards brotherhood and a conscious and desired solidarity, and which will encourage us to propagate and put into effect as much communism as possible, I believe that, just as complete individualism would be uneconomic as well as impossible, so would complete communism be impossible as well as anti-libertarian, more so if applied over a large territory.

To organize a communist society on a large scale it would be necessary to transform all economic life radically, such as methods of production, of exchange and consumption; and this could not be achieved other than gradually, as the objective circumstances permitted and to the extent that the masses understood what advantages could be gained and were able to act for themselves. If, on the other hand, one wanted, and could, carry out in one sweep the wishes and the ambitions of a party, the masses, accustomed to obey and serve, would accept the new way of life as a new law imposed on them by a new government, and would wait for a new supreme power to tell them how to produce, and determine for them what they should consume. And the new power, not knowing, and being unable to satisfy a huge variety of often contradictory needs and desires, and not wanting to declare itself useless by leaving to the interested parties the freedom to act as they wish or as best they can, would reconstitute the State, based, as all States are, on military and police forces which, assuming it survived, would simply replace the old set of rules by new, and more fanatical ones. Under the pretext, and even perhaps with the honest and sincere intention of regenerating the world with a new Gospel, a new single rule would be imposed on everybody; all freedom would be suppressed and free initiative made impossible; and as a result there would be disillusionment, a paralyzing of production, black markets, and smuggling, increased power and corruption in the civil service, widespread misery and finally a more or less complete return to those conditions of oppression and exploitation which it was the aim of the revolution to abolish.

The Russian experiment must not have been in vain.

In conclusion, it seems to me, that no system can be vital and really serve to free mankind from the slavery of the remote past, if it is not the result of free development.

Human societies, if they are to be communities of free men working together for the greatest good of all, and no longer convents or despotisms held together by religious superstition or brute force, cannot be the artificial creation of an individual or of a sect. They must be the resultant of the needs and the competitive or divergent wills of all their members who by trial and error find the institutions which at any given time are the best possible, and who develop and change them as circumstances and wills change.

One may, therefore, prefer communism, or individualism or collectivism, or any other system, and work by example and propaganda for the achievement of one’s personal preferences; but one must beware, at the risk of certain disaster, of supposing that one’s own system is the only, and infallible one, good for all men, everywhere and for all times, and that its success must be ensured at all costs, by means other than those which depend on persuasion, which spring from the evidence of facts.

What is important and indispensable, the point of departure, is to ensure for everybody the means to be free.[66]

[62] Pensiero e Volontà, August 25, 1926

[63] Pensiero e Volontà, June 1, 1926

[64] Umanità Nova, August 31, 1921

[65] Pensiero e Volontà, April 1, 1926

[66] Il Risveglio, November 30, 1929

(Source: Il Risveglio, November 30, 1929. Text from Life and Ideas: The Anarchist Writings of Errico Malatesta, 2015 Edition, edited and translated by Vernon Richards, published by PM Press -- please support the publisher!)

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